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  • Rams Team Report

    USA Today
    Posted 12h 35m ago E-mail | Save | Print |

    Aside from trying to win games, coach Steve Spagnuolo had one thing he stressed from the first day he was hired last January: Concentrate on "team first" and building an atmosphere that had that as the main goal.
    The Rams won only one game during the season, but Spagnuolo insists the team goal was met. Now he knows what has to be done to create wins for an organization that has won just six games in three seasons.

    Rookie middle linebacker James Laurinaitis likes what was accomplished and says the young talent will only get better.

    "I think we have a lot of talent on this team," Laurinaitis said. "If you look at a lot of the games this year, they could've gone other ways. I think we have great coaches. Another year together, it's going to be something good. There's definitely a lot of competitiveness in this group."

    It was also a unique year for Laurinaitis, who didn't lose many games during his entire college career at Ohio State, much less 15 in one season.

    "It's very easy to play 100 percent when you're winning and things are rolling and the crowd's into it, and stuff like that," he said. "But when you're down and things get out of control, that's when it's very easy to pack it in. I think I learned a lot about myself this year. I've never been put in that (losing) situation except for a few times in college. You can tell who really cares by who really keeps trying in those moments."

    Cornerback Ron Bartell was an unrestricted free agent last March and was being wooed by the Saints. After meeting Spagnuolo, Bartell elected to re-sign with the Rams. Does he regret it, considering New Orleans was 13-3 this past season and earned the top seed in the NFC playoffs?

    He said, "When I re-signed, I knew it wasn't going to be an overnight thing. I got into it for the long haul. So I knew it was going to take time. We still have the right people in place. I totally, firmly believe that. I think I made the best decision for me. I still think we can get this thing turned around."

    Of course, he acknowledged how tough the season was.

    "It was extremely difficult," Bartell said. "With all the changes we made, you definitely didn't see that coming. But it is what it is. We put ourselves in this position. The only thing we can do now is move forward."

    Bartell also likes the talent on the roster.

    "We have a good mix of young guys that are willing to learn, and veterans that are willing to lead," he said. "Not a lot of egos. Everybody's playing for the same goal. We didn't accomplish that, of course, but I think in the end we all just stuck together."

    Said veteran James Hall, who has played 10 seasons in the NFL and will be an unrestricted free agent in March, "It was a pleasure playing with these guys. Each locker room is different. And I've been in some bad ones. I've been in some good ones. So you try to stay with the good ones."

    Of course, as running back Steven Jackson noted, there is much that still has to happen for improvement to occur. Said Jackson, "We have a lot of work to get done. We have a lot of things that need to get turned around. ... Something has to turn. What we've done this year is not enough. We've got to work harder."


    —Steve Spagnuolo said there are no plans for changes on his coaching staff. When asked about that after the season ended, Spagnuolo said, "No, not right now."

    While Spagnuolo said everything would be evaluated, he added, "You just don't jump ship on process, schemes, people. There'll be some tweaking. But there won't be a major change here. You don't do that. You stick with what you believe in. If you didn't believe in it, you shouldn't have put it in in the first place. But we're going to be smart about it and see if there's anywhere in there that we need to improve or change or adjust, and we'll definitely do that. We won't be stubborn about it."

    —Since the end of the season, the Rams have signed four players who ended the season on their practice squad, along with another who was also with them during the season.

    Signed from the practice squad were defensive end Sean Conover, CB Marcus Brown, G Mark Lewis and C/G Drew Miller. Also added was LB Dominic Douglas, who played in four games during two periods on the active roster during the season.

    —The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that QB Marc Bulger is considering retirement. However, in the same story, it was also said Bulger had reportedly talked to a friend on another NFL team about the potential of playing there.

    Bulger has four years remaining on his contract, and he is scheduled to be paid $8.5 million in 2010.

    His agents said they have heard nothing from Bulger indicating he might not be interested in playing anymore.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "If you look across the league, most of these playoff teams are very experienced teams and have been together for quite some time. That's why I hope they can keep all of us together in this system under this coaching staff, so we can grow and keep getting the morale and the camaraderie up, so we can do something special around here. Because the city deserves it. The fans deserve it. And most of all, the players deserve it." — NT Clifton Ryan, on the current state of the Rams.



    QUARTERBACKS: Starter — Keith Null. Backups — Kyle Boller, Mike Reilly. Injured reserve — Marc Bulger.

    Of all the decisions the Rams have to make this offseason, quarterback has to be tops on the list. Bulger has been battered the last three seasons, and he is scheduled to be paid $8.5 million in 2010. Boller played on a one-year contract, and he showed why the Ravens gave up on him. Null showed some promise in four starts, but a lack of play-makers in the receiving corps makes it difficult to judge any of the quarterbacks. Reilly was signed in the second half of the season, and he will at least be around to compete heading to training camp. If Bulger and Bulger aren't brought back, the question is whether the Rams will sign another veteran or select a quarterback in the first three rounds and let the young guys battle it out.

    RUNNING BACKS: Starters — RB Steven Jackson, FB Mike Karney. Backups — Kenneth Darby, Chris Ogbonnaya, Samkon Gado.

    Jackson played the last part of the season with a herniated disk in his back, missing only one of the final six games. His injury accentuated the need for a true backup who can carry the load when he's not available. Darby has some skill, but he isn't an every-down back. Ogbonnaya showed some flashes when he played in the final two games. Gado is mostly a contributor on special teams. Karney dealt with some injuries during the season, but when healthy, he was showing his ability as a lead blocker for Jackson.

    TIGHT ENDS: Starter — Randy McMichael. Backup — Billy Bajema. Injured reserve — Daniel Fells.

    McMichael will be an unrestricted free agent and isn't expected to return. Entering the season, he was expected to be a focal point of the offense because of the inexperience at wide receiver, but he simply dropped too many passes and failed to gain the confidence of the quarterbacks. Fells has shown big-play ability at times, but he has yet to exhibit the consistency necessary as a blocker and receiver to be a starter. Bajema is a solid blocker and has good hands but isn't a threat as a receiver.

    WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters — Donnie Avery, Brandon Gibson. Backups — Danny Amendola, Ruvell Martin, Jordan Kent, Cord Parks. Injured reserve — Laurent Robinson, Keenan Burton, Brooks Foster.

    This group has a bunch of complementary players but no one who is a consistent play-maker. Avery should be, but his lack of consistency in route-running as well as durability questions reduce his overall value. Robinson was emerging as the class of the unit, but his season ended in the third game of the season. Gibson, acquired in an Oct. 20 trade with Philadelphia, was showing signs of developing when Bulger was playing. After he was injured on Nov. 22 against Arizona, Gibson's production tailed off except for one outstanding touchdown reception. Burton was also finally showing some progress when his season was ended by an injury. Amendola is solid in the slot, but nothing more. Foster could be the wild card. A fifth-round pick in 2009, his season ended in training camp, but he has speed and will need a strong offseason to get back on the radar.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters — LT Alex Barron, LG Mark Setterstrom, C Jason Brown, RG John Greco, RT Adam Goldberg. Backups — T Jason Smith, G Roger Allen III, T Phil Trautwein, T Eric Young, T Ryan McKee. Injured reserve — G Jacob Bell.

    Just when the line was starting to jell and looking as if it might have some stability, everything fell apart. Smith suffered a concussion on Nov. 22 and didn't play another game. Brown played the last several games with an injured knee, but he is the leader of the line and is a Pro Bowl alternate. Bell suffered a torn hamstring on Dec. 6 against Tennessee, the same game in which G Richie Incognito drew two personal-foul penalties. Incognito was waived two days later. Setterstrom replaced Bell, then missed the final game of the season because of a torn triceps. Even Setterstrom's replacement, the rookie Allen, tore his ACL in the season finale. Barron has never been as good as he can be, but he is durable. Without a salary cap, he will be a restricted free agent, so the Rams have a decision to make there. Goldberg can play anywhere on the line, and he spent most of the season at right tackle because of Smith's injuries. Greco, a third-round pick in 2008, started the last three games of the season. Smith likely will slide to left tackle, meaning Barron won't return, leaving a question mark at right tackle.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters — DLE Chris Long, T Darell Scott, NT Clifton Ryan, DRE James Hall. Backups — E Leonard Little, E Victor Adeyanju, E James Wyche, T LaJuan Ramsey, T Leger Douzable. Injured reserve — T Adam Carriker, T Gary Gibson, E C.J. Ah You.

    More decisions need to be made here. Little, who missed the end of the season because of an infected knee, and Hall will both be unrestricted free agents. Will the Rams re-sign one ... or both ... or neither? Long was solid all season against the run, and he started becoming a difference-maker in the second half of the season. His second season in Spagnuolo's defense should produce even more improvement. Adeyanju will be a restricted free agent without a salary cap. He's a work-hard guy with little pass-rush ability, and he was inactive for the first six games of the season. The tackle spot was very young and somewhat depleted after Carriker and Gibson were injured. Scott came on in the second half of the season, while Douzable and Ramsey showed some promise.

    LINEBACKERS: Starters — SLB David Vobora, MLB James Laurinaitis, WLB Paris Lenon. Backups — Chris Chamberlain, Larry Grant, K.C. Asiodu.

    One of the brightest spots in an otherwise forgettable season was the play of Laurinaitis, who not only led the team in tackles, but also became the quarterback of the defense in his rookie season. Now, the talent has been improved around him. Chris Draft was released six days before the start of the regular season, and Will Witherspoon was traded on Oct. 20. Lenon was signed and was solid, but nothing more. Vobora missed four games because of a league suspension, and he needs a lot of improvement. Chamberlain is the team's best special teams player, while Grant and Asiodu are also average backups.

    DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters — CB Ron Bartell, CB Justin King, SS James Butler, FS Craig Dahl. Backups — CB Jonathan Wade, CB Quincy Butler, CB Danny Gorrer, S Clinton Hart, S David Roach. Injured reserve — FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, CB Bradley Fletcher, S Eric Bassey.

    Bartell was affected all season by an injury to his quadriceps muscle, but he is still a very good player. The biggest disappointment came when Fletcher was lost for the season only a few games after being inserted as a starter. There is a question, but it is hoped he will be healthy by the start of training camp. After the training-camp trade of Tye Hill, several others were given a chance. Wade was first in as a starter, lost his job to Fletcher and then couldn't even get on the field as a nickel back until the season finale. King showed some promise in what was essentially his rookie season after missing all of 2008 with a toe injury. Quincy Butler made plays in the preseason but very few when he played in regular season. Gorrer, signed off the Saints' practice squad, showed some spunk in some late-season action, but he was very raw. James Butler added stability to the secondary, while Atogwe was fine until missing the final four games because of a shoulder injury.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: K Josh Brown, P Donnie Jones, LS Ryan Neill, KR Danny Amendola. Injured reserve — LS Chris Massey.

    The special teams were a bright spot all season. Brown missed some kicks early but settled down after that. Jones again was one of the better punters in the league, but he missed out again on the Pro Bowl. Neill replaced the injured Massey, and nothing seemed to be affected. Amendola gave some spark to the return game, but if he had more speed, he might have found the end zone a couple of times.

Related Topics


  • eldfan
    St louis Rams Team Report
    by eldfan

    —New coach Steve Spagnuolo made his first two hires with the addition of Pat Shurmur as offensive coordinator and Ken Flajole as defensive coordinator.

    Shurmur was an assistant with the Eagles since 1999, and spent the last seven seasons as quarterbacks coach. His uncle, Fritz Shurmur, was a Rams assistant and defensive coordinator from 1982-90.

    Flajole has been Carolina's linebackers coach since 2003. He and Spagnuolo don't have a coaching connection, but Flajole and Eagles coach Andy Reid were assistants together at the University of Missouri from 1989-91.

    Spagnuolo also received permission to talk with Vikings special teams coach Paul Ferraro. They were teammates at Springfield College in 1980 and '81, and were on the same staff at Massachusetts in 1982 and at Bowling Green in 1996 and '97. Ferraro was with Carolina in 2005 at the same time as Flajole.

    Interviewed as a potential defensive line coach was Randy Melvin, who has been with the Browns since 2005.

    —General manager Bill Devaney and Spagnuolo have connections from earlier in their careers.

    Devaney was a scout with Washington in 1983 when Spagnuolo was getting his feet wet as an intern in the player personnel department.

    Ten years later, Spagnuolo was with the Chargers as a scout when Devaney was the club's player personnel director.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "St. Louis has treated me well, giving me the opportunity to play and I am always going to be appreciative of that. Whatever happens, that is in God's hands and I am not really fretting over it. I feel like I am going to be where I'm supposed to be this next year." — FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, commenting on his impending free agency. Atogwe is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent Feb. 27.



    QUARTERBACK: Starter — Marc Bulger. Backups — Trent Green, Brock Berlin.

    All indications are that Bulger, despite a season of struggles, will return as the starter in 2009. However, it's also possible the Rams will explore signing a different backup and that Green won't be back. It also appears likely that a young quarterback could be brought in to develop behind Bulger. Berlin has shown progress, and could remain in the mix as the No. 3 quarterback.

    RUNNING BACKS: Starter — Steven Jackson. Backups — Kenneth Darby, Antonio Pittman, Travis Minor. Injured reserve — Brian Leonard.

    Jackson held out for 27 days, and then missed several games because of a groin injury. He went over 1,000 yards in the final game of the season, and showed how different the team is when he plays. However, it's clear the offense needs a better backup because 2007 second-round pick Leonard is not the answer, nor is Pittman, who showed flashes, but not consistency. Darby was a find as a slasher-type...
    -01-24-2009, 10:36 PM
  • RamsFan16
    What we have, what we need ( Long )
    by RamsFan16
    What we have, and what we need

    Offensively, the Rams have a lot of potential, unfortunately that doesn’t automatically translate to All Pro talent. As cornerstones, we have several. Starting with the Offensive Line, we have Jason Brown, and Jason Smith. Both young, and talented, with room to improve. Jason Smith the rookie RT has had a few injuries this season, with the most recent being a severe concussion. Prior to the injury, he was playing at a very high level. While run blocking, Smith was a absolute bulldozer, driving opponents back, pancaking them, and being relentless. While in pass protection, he showed much improvement. He started out slow and got had a “Welcome to the NFL, Rookie!” moment when Julius Peppers made a comedian out of Smith. Other than that one play, Smith has been solid in pass protection, and outstanding in the running game. The Rams are set at C, and RT, and some could say LG for the future. Yes, LG, Jacob Bell has been playing much better this season, believe it or not. Starting lineman Alex Barron ( LT ) and Richie Incognito ( RG ) have expiring contracts at the end of the season, with that, the question “Do the Rams bring them back?” comes up. Granted, they make boneheaded penalties on occasion, they’re players, they’ve becoming accustomed to this scheme and other than penalties have played at a “winning level”. Even if they’re not guaranteed a starting spot, bring them back. A team with enough holes the way it is does not need to create anymore for themselves. At worst, the two of them will be solid backups. Bring in some draft picks, or Free Agents to compete with them, make them earn it, but we cannot just let them walk, and create 2 holes on the line when they’ve gelled together pretty well as of late
    At the skill positions, offensively, the Rams have an absolute star Running Back in Steven Jackson. One of thee best, if not the best running backs in the game, Jackson has outstanding leadership and talent. He’s going to be 27 years old next season, and with his unique style of play, we badly need to get him a legitimate backup running back to take the load of him. Samkon Gado and Kenneth Darby will most likely be gone after this season, and Rookie RB Chris Ogbonoya ( sp* ) could serve as a potential #2, or #3 at worst. But we need to get Steven a backup, and a backup bad to let him continue this high level of play. At Tight End, veteran Randy McMichael will most likely be gone after this year, young Daniel Fells has shown potential and never gets utilized in our game plan for some reason. I’d feel comfortable next season with Daniel Fells and Billy Bajema as our two tight ends. That being said, it wouldn’t hurt to get a young guy in to compete either, but if not, I’m fine. At Wide Receiver, we have a stable of young, potential filled players. Donnie Avery, Brandon Gibson, Laurant Robinson, Keenan Burton, Danny Amendola, Ruvell Martin, Brooks Foster, Jordan Kent, who to keep, who to say bye...
    -12-09-2009, 02:20 AM
  • Goldenfleece
    State of the Rams: Defense
    by Goldenfleece
    A week ago I took a look at offensive needs. Now I'd like to take a look at where we stand on defense.

    Defensive Tackle
    Current Options: Clifton Ryan, Darrell Scott, Gary Gibson, Adam Carriker, Lajuan Ramsey, Leger Douzable
    Evaluation: The early losses of Gibson and Carriker make this position difficult to evaluate. Before AC even went down for the season, Gibson was already taking reps with the first team. I really don’t know whether Carriker is good or not because I can’t remember the last time he wasn’t slowed by some injury or another. Ryan had a pretty decent season, although not reflected in the stats. Scott had a very quiet rookie season. Ramsey and Douzable had their moments but would have been fringe players even on our team if not for the injuries.
    Off-season Priority: Medium-High. We have a lot of young players at the position who at some point during the season showed promise, but once again we finished near the bottom of the league in both run defense and sacks. Our defense will not be strong without strong line play.

    Defensive End
    Current Options: Chris Long, Leonard Little, James Hall, C.J. Ah You, Victor Adeyanju
    Evaluation: Long has made strides in his game each season and may yet quiet his doubters if he gets some help. Little is 35 and, although still productive, is not the force he once was. His contract is up, and he may retire. Hall will be 33 next month and is also likely near the end of his career. His contract is up, and he may or may not be back for the 2010 season. Ah You's most memorable moment in 2009 came when he blocked a field goal on a play which was called back because we had 12 men on the field. He saw some playing time in a reserve role and recorded one sack. Adeyanju may have fallen out of favor with the new regime, as he was often inactive on game day. He, too, may leave as a free agent.
    Off-season Priority: High. Three out of five could leave, and we didn't have much of a pass rush even with them. Also, we have a defensive coordinator whose defense relies on pressure. Bad news.

    Middle Linebacker
    Current Options: James Laurinaitis, Dominic Douglas
    Evaluation: “Viral” Laurinaitis was all over the place wreaking havoc on opponents. Yes, he occasionally got caught out of position, but he still had a great rookie season. Douglas joined the active roster in mid-November, a few weeks after he had most recently been cut from the practice squad.
    Off-season Priority: Low. If Laurinaitis ever succumbed to injury, we could probably slide over one of the guys competing for the strongside position or something.

    Outside Linebacker
    Current Options: Paris Lenon, Chris Chamberlain, David Vobora, Larry Grant
    Evaluation: On the weak side, Lenon is sort of the classic journeyman. As a starter for the Lions, he led the team in tackles...but an above-average starter for the Lions might still be...
    -01-22-2010, 08:19 PM
  • eldfan
    Rams Report
    by eldfan



    QUARTERBACKS: Starter — Sam Bradford. Backup — A.J. Feeley.

    Bradford had a season worthy of being the league's offensive rookie of the year. He completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,512 yards and had just 15 interceptions. His passer rating of 76.5 is average overall, but good for a rookie. He wasn't asked to do much, partly because of an absence of play-makers at receiver. His average per attempt was just 5.95 and average per completion was under 10 (9.9). Feeley, who never got on the field for a snap, helped Bradford's development because of his background in the West Coast offense. Thaddeus Lewis was on the practice squad and has been signed to a 2011 contract.

    RUNNING BACKS: Starter — Steven Jackson. Backups — Kenneth Darby, Keith Toston, FB Mike Karney, FB Brit Miller.

    Jackson's second half wasn't as strong as his first, and a large part was due to struggles on the interior of the offensive line. Jackson had his best stretch when John Greco shared time with Adam Goldberg at right guard. But when Jason Smith missed a game with a concussion, Renardo Foster started and then was active for the rest of the season while Greco was inactive. Jackson rushed for 1,241 yards, but averaged only 3.8 yards per attempt. Darby (34) and Toston (27) had a combined 61 rushing attempts. After Miller was signed, he took the spot of Karney on the game-day roster because of his prowess on special teams. When Miller was lost for the season because of a knee injury, Karney was active for the final two games of the season.

    TIGHT ENDS: Starter — Billy Bajema. Backups — Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui, Derek Schouman, Darcy Johnson, Fendi Onobun.

    The biggest disappointment was the right games missed by Hoomanawanui because of two high ankle sprains. He and Bradford developed a promising rapport in training camp, but Hoomanawanui went down early in the season opener. After coming back, he had three touchdowns on just 13 receptions before being injured again. Bajema is a solid blocker, and sometime pass-catcher who had 14 receptions and two touchdowns. Fells is maddening with his inconsistency, although he did have 41 receptions and two touchdowns. Schouman was signed in late November. Johnson (concussion) finished the season on injured reserve. Onobun showed some potential with his freakish athletic skills, but he needs to have a busy offseason. He missed the final seven games on injured reserve with a back injury.

    WIDE RECEIVERS — Starters — Brandon Gibson, Laurent Robinson. Backups — Danny Amendola, Danario Alexander, Mardy Gilyard, Donnie Avery, Mark Clayton, Dominique Curry.

    The last four names say a lot about the team's receiver situation during the 2010 season. Avery, Clayton and Curry all had knee injuries that ended their seasons; Avery's occurred...
    -01-15-2011, 05:58 PM
  • eldfan
    St Louis Rams Team Report
    by eldfan
    USA Today

    For a team that averaged less than 11 points a game in 2009, it was paramount that the Rams exit training camp with a unit that had the potential to be a lot better.
    To do that meant making sure running back Steven Jackson was healthy following April back surgery, putting together an offensive line that could hopefully develop chemistry and, most importantly, getting rookie quarterback Sam Bradford ready to play.

    It appears to be mission accomplished on all those fronts, which has resulted in some guarded optimism surrounding a team that has won just six of 48 games over the past three seasons.

    There remain questions about the wide receiver corps, but the tight end group looks promising. Still, everyone knows a healthy Jackson is most important.

    Said Jackson, three days before the preseason finale against Baltimore, "I'm really excited. I'm ready for Sept. 12. As the days go by, I'm getting more anxious.

    "I think as an offensive group, we're making great strides. For us to have so many young guys and be able to move the ball like we have these last two preseason games, it's very encouraging. We're going in the right direction."

    Most impressive was how Bradford played in third preseason game against New England. It's looking more and more like Bradford will be under center when that Sept. 12 game is played, at home against the division-rival Arizona Cardinals.

    The line is providing the most hope. At the end of OTAs in June, there were six offensive linemen on the sideline, including left tackle Rodger Saffold (knee), left guard Jacob Bell (knee) and right tackle Jason Smith (toe).

    When camp opened, Saffold was at left tackle with Smith limited. Bell was sidelined by an abdominal injury and didn't play in the first preseason game. Smith played, but struggled in pass coverage against Minnesota.

    However, Bell returned following the game against the Vikings, and since then, the first unit hasn't missed a practice or game.

    It all came together against the Patriots as the Rams totaled 462 yards and scored 36 points.

    "Much better," Spagnuolo said of the play of the line. "I thought they all worked well together. I think the left side of the line is coming together; the right side is following. The communication is much better."

    And with that is the hope that the offense can make three awful seasons a distant memory.

    COACHING: Steve Spagnuolo, 2nd year, 2nd with Rams (1-15).

    REMEMBERING: 2009 record: 1-15 (4th in NFC West).

    PREDICTING: 2010 regular season record 5-11 (3rd in NFC West).


    —Does QB Sam Bradford have a strong arm? Just ask WR Danny Amendola. After the game against New England, Amendola had to have six stitches to repair a gash between...
    -09-02-2010, 12:07 PM